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Usain Bolt Sprints Into Olympic History


On a Friday it's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.


And I'm Renee Montagne. It was a day of triumph in London yesterday. The U.S. women's soccer and water polo teams won gold, as did U.S. decathlete Ashton Eaton. And on the track one of the biggest names of these games wowed once again. Usain Bolt has become the first runner to win the 100 meter and 200 meter races in consecutive Olympics. NPR's Mike Pesca was there for each end of the double-double and brought back this report.

MIKE PESCA, BYLINE: The 200 was different from the 100. Well, it's twice as long, yeah, but there's more. Before the 100, Usain Bolt mimed bunny ears when introduced to the audience. In the two hundred, Bolt did the royal wave favored by Queen Elizabeth. In the 100, three credible athletes from the U.S. sought to challenge Bolt and his teammate, Yohan Blake.

In the 200, Wallace Spearmon was the only American in the finals. In the 100, a spectator threw a Heineken bottle on the track as the runners were in the blocks.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Come on, Usain!

PESCA: In the 200, there was only hushed silence.


PESCA: Bolt, a notoriously poor starter, unfolded his six-foot-five-inch frame with celerity, and from there simply dusted the field. On the inside, countryman Yohan Blake would challenge, or at least serve as an escort jet for the F-15 in lane seven. As Bolt crossed the finish line, he slowed down a smidge, perhaps missing out on an Olympics record.

His time of 19.32 seconds missed that mark by .02 seconds. Bolt put an index finger to his lips, a message he later said, to those who didn't believe in him.

USAIN BOLT: You have the doubters. You always have the doubters. For me it's fun. This was a joy to just tell them shut up, pretty much.

PESCA: But Bolt also said that he felt more love than hate, and his Jamaican teammates reveled in the glow. Yohan Blake had won the silver and Wallace Weir the bronze. After the race, Weir revealed Bolt's whispered message.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: He said something to you right before the race started. What was it?

WALLACE WEIR: One, two, three.

PESCA: The man who finished fourth, Wallace Spearman, was gutted. As Bolt ran up the track, pumped out five push-ups - one for each gold - and nicked a photographer's camera, pretending to be Richard Avedon for a moment, Spearmon was doubled over on the track. He clutched a railing to steady himself and bent forward at the waist like a man trying to catch his breath. Afterwards, Spearmon choked back tears.

WALLACE SPEARMON: No. There was never a doubt in my mind that I'd finish top three, and right now it just feels surreal. So I just have to work harder. Congratulations to him. I can't anything from him.

PESCA: Bolt, on the other hand, proclaimed himself a legend. The 200 pushes him into the pantheon, alongside Jesse Owens and Carl Lewis, though Bolt went out of his way to condemn Lewis over the nine-time gold medalist's insinuations that the Jamaicans may be cheating.

BOLT: I'm going to say something controversial right now. Carl Lewis, I have no respect him. Things he says about the track athletes is really downgrading for another athlete to be saying something like that about other athletes. I think he just wants the attention, really, because nobody really talks much about him.

PESCA: It was one discordant note in a wide-ranging press conference in which Bolt was asked if he'd participate in next years World Championships, the 2016 Olympics, the 400, premier league football, and the professional cricket circuit.

No to the 400, maybe to all the others. Bolt and his teammates have one more race in London, the four by 100 relay. The other contending countries knew they were to face off against some of the speediest humans alive, but now they have to conquer a legend. Mike Pesca, NPR News, London. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.